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Suspects’ bid to alter murder charge opposed   

Nat Molomo

THE state recently objected to an application by seven Thaba-Tseka men to have their murder charge altered to a culpable homicide charge.

The seven are Lebona Ralebona, Mokoma Shampene, Mariti Ralebona, Pitso Ralebona, Mokoto Shampene, Malefetsane Ralebona, and another suspect also known as Lebona Ralebona.

They stand accused of murdering Tumo Mohapi on 9 June 2016. During their appearance before High Court judge Justice Tšeliso Monapathi, their lawyer, Advocate Molise Molise, notified the court that they intended to apply for their charge to be altered to the lesser culpable homicide charge. Explaining the move, Adv Molise said since the incident happened in 2016, “the accused persons had been willing to enter into discussions with the family of the dead man to discuss how they can compensate the family of deceased person”.

However, Crown Counsel, Advocate Lehlanako Mofilikoane opposed the suspects’ application, saying it was inconceivable that the murder charge should be altered given the brutal manner in which the accused had killed the accused. Adv Molise said the brutality of the killing warranted murder charges.

The deceased Mohapi was allegedly assaulted with sticks by the suspects who accused him of stealing seven sheep belonging to one of the accused Lebona Ralebona accused number seven. Mohapi subsequently died of the injuries sustained in the assault.

Adv Molise said in an event, the suspects could not be applying for a lesser charge now when the incident had happened four years ago.

“It is inconceivable that the accused should be talking of entering into discussions about compensating the family of the deceased when this matter happened four years ago.

“This offence took place in 2016. It is now the fourth year since this offence had happened. How is it that the accused are now talking of discussions with the deceased’s family? I wonder why they are coming up with this proposal today,” Adv Mofilikoane said.

After listening to the defence and the prosecution, Justice Monapathi resolved to postpone the case to 28 April 2020, saying “all the court wants to know for now is how the accused plead, the issue of discussions (to compensate the deceased’s family and have the murder charge altered to culpable homicide) should come after the case has proceeded”.

The seven eventually pleaded not guilty to the murder charge.

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